Korean Emoticons: The Ultimate Guide to Text Symbols

Want to express your emotions over text or keyboard? Easy! The Korean emoticons are here to help.

In this article, we’ll show you the meanings of the various emoticons and how to use them yourself!

11 yellow emojis with different expressions

We’ve prepared a free PDF guide that goes along with this page to take with you:

Intro to Korean Emoticons

Okay, a show of hands! Who has ever seen a symbol or emoticon in a Korean text message that they couldn’t understand the meaning of?

When you first saw the two upward lines (^^) in a conversation, did you think the person was referencing a previous part of the conversation? Were you totally confused?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! The good news is that you just weren’t well acquainted with Korean emoticons.

Korean Emoticons 101

As you’ll see, Korean emoticons are tons of fun. It makes each conversation better by adding more life to it. So, to fully appreciate them, here are things that you should do first.

Learn what each Korean emoticons mean

The first step is being able to decipher them. Learning the basics will allow you to tell how your Korean friends feel when they type. In the same way, you get to express how you feel, whether you feel uncomfortable, happy, excited, or sad. You’ll even get to know more about modern Korean culture through them. 

Use Korean emoticons when texting

The second step is starting to make use of them in your Korean text conversations. As a side bonus, you may end up learning Korean just by typing in Hangeul more often. Even if you can’t make complete sentences yet, it’s fun to throw in some Korean words into your messages when you can. You can even add Korean exclamations along with the emoticons.

Emoticons are the best part of texting in Korean, and they have two main benefits over Western-style emoticons:

  1. There are emoticons representing a wide range of emotions, and Koreans have emoticons for almost every situation (for better or for worse)
  2. While Western text emoticons are sideways – think ;), :), or :(, you don’t need to tilt your head to read their Korean equivalents – they’re drawn as the eye would see them.

emoticons western and korean

To type some of these smileys and emoticons on your computer or mobile phone, you’ll need to be able to type in Korean and have a Korean keyboard installed.

In this article, we’ll cover only the emoticons, but if you wish to read up about Korean abbreviations for text messaging, you may do so here.

Please Note: Korean emoticons are similar to other East Asian emoticons but may use Korean characters in some instances. Though we do our best to explain the meanings below, some individuals may use these text symbols to take a slightly different meaning, or they may be interpreted differently depending on the context.

All set? Let’s get right into the action. 

The 80/20 of Korean Emoticons

At 90 Day Korean, we’re all about focusing on the 20% of materials that will give you 80% of the results. When it comes to emoticons, it’s no different!

While in this post, we’ll give you many examples of emoticons that are used, we’ll be sure to give you the most commonly used symbols where appropriate, so you’re not left guessing. A lot of the symbols are used a lot more frequently than others, and you don’t need to spend all your time memorizing them.

There are honestly hundreds of emoticons, and each has many variations, so instead, you can focus on general guidelines:

1) If something is pointing upwards, it usually represents a positive emotion.

Example: ^^

2) If something is horizontal, it usually represents a neutral emotion, such as confusion or sleepiness.

Example: = =

3) If something points downwards, it usually represents a negative emotion.

Example: ㅜㅜ

These rules won’t apply in every case, but we can use them as a starting point as we delve into the emoticons for various emotions. 

Can't read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!

Difference Between Korean Emoji and Emoticons

Korean emojis and emoticons differ mainly in their design and usage. Emojis are colorful, standardized pictorial icons used globally, including in Korea, to convey emotions, objects, or symbols. They’re incorporated into digital platforms like in social media and are universally recognizable.

On the other hand, Korean emoticons are unique text-based expressions. They use keyboard characters to depict emotions and actions in a creative way. These texts use Hangul (Korean alphabet) and other keyboard symbols, so having a Korean keyboard is necessary.

These emoticons are often more expressive in conveying subtle nuances and specific emotions, so they help reflect Korean culture and communication styles.

Korean in itself is already interesting. However, using emojis and emoticons makes texting your Korean friends a lot more fun!

We’ll introduce you to different emoticons used in South Korea below! ^^

Different text emoticons used in Korea

Now that you’re a bit more familiar with the basics of Korean emoticons, it’s time to learn each of them below. Let’s keep things positive and kick things off with happy emoticons!

Happy Korean Emoticons

There is no shortage of happy Korean emoticons, and when texting with some Koreans, you may see a smiley face symbol in nearly every other sentence!

So many variations of smiley faces exist that they warrant their own section.

The first rule of Korean smileys is that THERE ARE NO RULES! Basically, anything goes, but at a bare minimum, you need a set of happy eyes.

korean emoticon king
When it comes to Korean emoticons, you can have it your way!

Most commonly, ^^ are used for eyes that represent the happy, wide eyes you get when you are smiling! You can make them by pressing SHIFT + 6 on your keyboard.

Once you have the eyes, you can feel free to add other elements such as a nose, a mouth, a face, or blushing cheeks to be extra cute!

Be like Burger King and have it your way — be creative!

Here are some of the many smiley faces used in Korean texting.

Smiley Korean Emoticons

Feeling happy? Here are the most common ways to show your smiley face through text.

Smiley Korean EmoticonExplanation
^^smiley eyes showing happiness
^o^smiley face (with round mouth)
^_^smiley face (with straight mouth)
^.^smiley face (with cute mouth)
^-^smiley face (with small mouth)
^ㅂ^smiley face (with open mouth)
n_nsmiley face (with big eyes)
'ㅂ'smiley face (with open mouth)
(^o^)smiley face and mouth with face outline
*(^o^)*really happy smiley face
★^^★smiley face with cheeks
^_________^big smile

80/20 Most Commonly Used: ^^ or ^_^

Other Happy Emoticons

Besides smiley faces, here are other emoticons to show your positive emotions.

Happy Korean EmoticonExplanation
(^_^)/holding up your hand waving and saying "hi"
d(^_^)bthumbs up
ㅇㅅㅇanimal nose smiley
•ㅅ•animal nose smiley (variation)
(•¯ ∀ ¯•)cute animal face

Sad Korean Emoticons

Most sad emoticons in Korea have tears, which are represented by vertical lines dropping from the eyes. For the most commonly used variations, you’ll need the Korean keyboard as these are Korean characters, but there are variations that don’t require it.sad korean emoticons

Sad Korean EmoticonExplanation
ㅜㅜsad eyes with tears
ㅜ.ㅜcrying face (with small mouth)
ㅜ_ㅜcrying face (with straight mouth)
ㅠㅠsad eyes with double tears
ㅠ.ㅠcrying face (with small mouth)
ㅠ_ㅠcrying face (with straight mouth)
T.Tvaration of sad eyes with tears
Y.Yvariation of sad eyes with tears
;_;small eyes with tears
!_!big eyes with tears
OTLcrouched on the ground in pain or sadness (represents a person on all fours)

OTL Meaning in Korean 

You might be thinking, “What does OTL stand for?” when you saw this in our list above. No, it doesn’t mean “one true love.” OTL is another emoticon that’s commonly used in Korean texts. It’s usually used to convey feelings of disappointment, sadness, or defeat.

It’s not an acronym, so there’s no need to check out an acronym finder for the letters “O,” “T,” and “L” separately. Instead, look at “OTL” as a complete image on its own to figure out what it means.

O – A person’s head

T – A person’s torso and hand on the ground

L – A person’s bent legs

OTL Meaning in Korean

Flirty Korean Emoticons

Sending a text to your significant other can be made extra sweet with these emoticons.

Flirty Korean EmoticonExplanation
^3^puckered lips
♡.♡love eyes
*^.^*blushing (perhaps from a compliment)
(>^_^)> <(^_^<)hug (two people embracing each other)

More Korean Text Emoticons

Just like how people express different emotions, there should also be their emoticon counterparts. Here are some of them:  

Korean EmoticonMeaning
^^;flustered or embarrassed
^_^;;sweating due to awkwardness or embarrassment
=.=upset or lost for words or bored
-_-upset or lost for words or bored
=_=upset or lost for words or bored
@_@confused (also can mean dizzy)
o_oconfused smiley
//_//shy face
ㅅ'ㅗgiving someone "the finger"
V(^-^)Vposing by throwing up the "victory" sign
요TLon all fours vomiting

Bonus: Text symbol used to sound cute

While it’s not an emoticon per se, this symbol can be used to make your texting sound cuter and friendlier. Even if you don’t use it yourself, you’ll learn to recognize it and will understand its meaning when you do come across it.

For added cuteness, add the tilde symbol (~) to the end of your sentence.


치킨 먹자 (chikin meokja)~ 

Let’s eat chicken~

안녕 (annyeong)


To be more Korean, add the basic smiley face afterward for a one-two cuteness punch!


보고싶어 (bogosipeo)~^^ 

I miss you~^^

You may notice that some Korean friends use this symbol after almost every sentence! It can be used after virtually any sentence, and it basically extends the last syllable to sound cuter or “애교 (aegyo).” It would be the equivalent of saying something like “Let’s goooo” in English in a cute voice.

How to Laugh in Korean Texting

While not exactly Korean emoticons, certain characters in the Korean language help indicate and express laughter and allow you to show emotions in texting. For this reason, we’ll cover it here briefly. Check out this video from our YouTube Channel! ^^

How do I say “LOL” in Korean?

There are three main ways South Koreans express laughter through text:

1) ㅋㅋㅋ

Pronounced “크크크” (keukeukeu), Koreans use this character to show laughter. Some people use one ㅋ, and others use many to express LOL in Korean! If something is really funny to you, you might want to add more ㅋs like this: ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ

2) ㅎㅎㅎ

When you want to mix things up, you can use the consonant ㅎ to show laughter. Why is this used? Well, it is similar in pronunciation to the English “h,” so it is like saying “hahaha” in English, only shortened.

3) 헤헤헤

You might also see Koreans using 헤헤헤 (hehehe) from time to time! When you want to spell things out, you can use it as well! Pronounced “hehehe“, this one is pretty self-explanatory.

80/20 Most Commonly Used: ㅋㅋㅋ

Wrap Up

So there you have it. Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to spice up your Korean text conversations with a lot more emotion (and cuteness, of course) and even learn a thing or two about Korean culture to boot! Another thing you can add is some common internet slang terms, so make sure you’re updated on the list that we have here!

Just remember the basic elements, and feel free to explore. Be sure to report back any experiences you have while making use of what you learned.

What is your favorite emoticon? Have any more commonly used emoticons to add to our list? Let us know in the comments below, and we’d love to hear from you~^^

Was this post helpful?

69 thoughts on “Korean Emoticons: The Ultimate Guide to Text Symbols”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *